Rt Hon Winston Peters: State of the Nation Speech
Rt Hon Winston Peters
New Zealand First Leader
Member of Parliament for Northland
26 JANUARY 2016
Rt Hon Winston Peters: State of the Nation Speech
Orewa Rotary Club
2 Hibiscus Highway
7.30 pm, Tuesday, 26th January, 2016
Uncertain - and Risky -Times
President Cullen, Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for your invitation to speak to you tonight - almost a decade since we were last here.
Over a long career there has been a significant change in politics in this country. Not just different governments, but a difference in how we are governed.
Much of this change has not been for the better.
It has led to the conclusion, that the some parties either need hearing aids, or are deliberately ignoring the people.
Law making in this country no longer consists of talking to New Zealanders, of giving them the facts and having a discussion about how we as a country should confront the challenges we face.
Instead, it consists of back room men, theocrats and bureaucrats trying to stifle debate, withholding facts, and spin replacing truth.
We often hear talk of the public’s distrust of politicians. Well let’s talk about politicians distrust of the public.
This decay means they don’t ask the most important question a politician should ask: What’s best for our people?
In fact, if common sense were a bird, it would be nearly extinct in Parliament.
Internationally, 2015 was a grim year for much of the world.
Being an enviable distance from many trouble spots we were not directly impacted – but that should only make us more conscious of what a privilege it is to be a New Zealander.
In New Zealand First we have no illusions – we know of New Zealand’s once great achievements and we are committed to protecting and preserving all that is best in our country for current and future generations.
State of the Party
New Zealand First is a major opposition party and political force in New Zealand.
Last year we achieved a remarkable by-election victory in Northland. The people there – and indeed regional New Zealand as a whole – will no longer be overlooked, neglected and forgotten.
Regions around New Zealand of late barely register as a blip on the government’s radar.
And they are the dumping ground. The latest, a plan to clear Auckland of anyone waiting for a state house.
Listen closely to the Mayors of regional towns. They don’t want anyone on a benefit dumped on their doorstep. Why?
Most regions are already struggling with unemployment and lack of support services. But regional NZ is learning from Northland. A vote does send a message.
In 2016 NZ First will continue to provide the most hard hitting and effective opposition to the Government
We will leave prognostication on the future course of events to those who profess to have a crystal ball – but the start of 2016 is the time to ask three pertinent questions:
1. How well is NZ doing?
2. What is the Government really up to?
3. What can Kiwis can count on from NZ First in 2016?
How well is NZ really doing?
The Government claims that the New Zealand economy is a picture of glowing good health due its own brilliance.
While the phrase “Rock Star economy” has been quietly buried, the official spin is that the New Zealand economy is an outstanding performer.
Regrettably, the mainstream media has largely bought this bogus and superficial “feel good” view of the NZ economy.
NZ First begs to differ.
Just as you do when buying a used car, we suggest people take a look under the hood before buying the spin.
What does the scorecard show?
Officially 6% of the workforce is unemployed and this is expected to increase – right now there are 150,000 wanting a job. And these figures don’t tell the whole story. Many unregistered unemployed are hidden behind the statistics with countless thousands counted as employed not having enough hours work to earn a decent living.
For most Kiwi workers who do have a job their pay is practically static. The median weekly income (pre-tax) for those on wages and salaries last year was $880 per week or $46K. (Source: June 2015 data from NZ Incomes Survey Statistics NZ).
Incomes per person in relation to GDP are falling, not rising.
And that is half the working population of NZ.
Treasury’s growth forecast for the year to March 2016 is now 2.1%, well down from the forecast of 3.1 made in the May 2015 Budget. (Source: Treasury Fiscal Update: 15 Dec 2015). And NZ needs 3% growth just to employ its school and tertiary leavers.
Any country can artificially boost its GDP growth by an open door immigration policy – but only the old parties are irresponsible enough to actually do this.
• Current Account Deficit
The current account deficit – the measure of whether we are paying our way - is running at $8 billion annually and is expected to worsen. The deficit was 3.5% of GDP in 2014/15. Treasury forecasts it will grow to 6% in 2016/17. This is dangerous.
• Budget Surplus/Deficit
The Government managed to achieve a token chimeric surplus of $0.4 billion in the 2014/15 financial year. Today financial statements released by Treasury show the budget deficit from July – November 2015 was actually $1.6 billion. That is a staggering $2 billion turn around.
All sorts of jiggery pokery was used to massage the figures to disguise the real extent of the shortfall in government finances.
Just before Christmas NZ First revealed the government hiding cuts to departmental budgets and shifting money around to mask cut backs in services.
This is ‘fiscal sleight of hand’.
The government has over 4 years underspent $273m on justice, policing and corrections - despite the serious issues facing all three.
There are many other examples. Bio Security and DOC staff being just two.
So overall, there are no grounds for smugness and complacency.
On the contrary, our economy remains highly vulnerable in the event of a serious economic shock.
What is the National Government Really Up To?
National has now been at the helm for 7 years, long enough for one thing to become increasingly clear.
National has an agenda to systematically undermine and weaken New Zealand’s sense of identity and sovereignty.
This agenda lurks behind a number of issues – including changing the flag, encouraging foreign ownership and flooding the country with immigrants.
Campaign to Change the Flag
There was no problem, no serious public concern with the New Zealand flag – until John Key decided to manufacture an issue.
That typifies arrogance and contempt for New Zealand’s history and values. It’s hypocritical. Key brought back knighthoods and shamelessly tried to best friend the royal family yet wants the Union Jack gone.
From the very outset we have never doubted that our flag stance reflects the view of the majority of New Zealanders.
There is another profound reason.
Developments in Australia show Australian political leaders Federally, and in all but one State want to have their own Head of State, rather than the British monarchy. The inevitable result of that movement will be for Australia to change its flag and when they do the argument that our flag is too like Australia’s will go out the window.
So why should we consider changing our flag when, in about 4 years, it will become unique as it was early last century?
Mr Turnbull scrapped predecessor Abbott’s policy of reintroducing Knights and Dames.
Our Prime Minister wants a bob each way. Scrap our national flag whilst reintroducing Knights and Dames.
We expect that the common sense of New Zealanders will prevail. Most Kiwis recognize that the extreme cost of the two referendum is money that could be well spent on more deserving projects.
But then just a few years ago after 21 tax paid Hui at which less than a total of 1000 Maori attended National endorsed the Maori Party demand to fly the so called Maori flag which less than a fraction of 1% of Maori chose in the first place.
Fire Sale of New Zealand Continues
Another area where there has been an assault on New Zealand’s sovereignty is the selling of our country to foreign interests.
New Zealand is a soft touch for foreign buyers.
The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) is a facade - a token exercise intended to give the impression that someone actually takes the national interest into account before foreign buyers get the green light.
Cunningly contrived to hide its impact before last Christmas, it was announced that the Japanese company Sumitomo had bought out Hancock Forest Management who own 30,000 hectares of Nelson region pine forests in a $370 million deal.
And late last year our biggest meat exporter, Silver Fern Farms, was majority sold to Chinese interests in a corrupt transaction of deceit matching the worst excesses of the Wine Box cases.
Shareholders were blatantly misled as to the state of SFF debt and income. The debt was massively overstated, whilst income was grossly understated. The shareholder vote took place just three weeks before the true state of SFF’s debt and income was announced.
This is appalling corruption the political establishment blatantly turns a blinds eye to. They may think it’s a done deal. Tonight we have this warning for them. We will leave no stone unturned to expose the perpetrators but you may well ask why National claiming to be a farmer’s party is conspiring to commit this scandal.
These deals will get the usual Overseas Investment Office rubber stamp
The truth is that as things stand there is no requirement on foreign buyers to invest locally in downstream production or new technology
NZ first has the strongest policy in relation to so called foreign investment.
Under our policy the rules would be strict - there would need to be clear, unequivocal and quantifiable benefits to New Zealand before foreign ownership was allowed.
There was record a net gain of 63,700 migrants last year.
That is an incredible influx relative to our overall population – to the rate of natural increase – and our capacity to absorb new migrants.
Diversity, beloved of some apologists, is not an economic or social policy. There is clearly no economic justification for the flood of immigrants. On the contrary mass immigration is directly counter to the interests of most Kiwis in terms of jobs, housing and already overloaded services especially in an age of robotics.
This is also an assault on our sovereignty
NZ First has been at the forefront of opposing the open door immigration policy –continuing to demand drastic reductions in the rate of immigration to a level that serves the needs of New Zealand as a whole
We have repeatedly drawn attention to workplace corruption and exploitation of vulnerable workers arising from the flood of migrants settling in New Zealand.
And now population experts are being forced to an inevitable conclusion - they now agree, belatedly, that immigration needs looking at. [Spooner]
NZ Herald headlines yesterday and today would be comical if they weren’t so serious.
“Housing crisis will hit employers’, ‘House prices puts regions future at risk’ – (‘Businesses struggle to attract staff as road congestion and cost of property erode city’s competiveness’)
And at long last, the Labour Inspectorate has confirmed just how widespread breaches of New Zealand labour standards are. But we’ve yet to see any firm action to end this exploitation.
If immigration were the answer to all our economic issues why have record levels of immigration not eliminated unemployment, the chronic balance of payments deficit and a massive external debt?
We have a government that is contemptuous of the real concerns and problems of New Zealanders. Which is why National has:
• no intention of restricting the numbers of migrants to a sensible level
• no stringent tests on foreign ownership, and
• inflicted a totally unnecessary and extravagant flag referendum on New Zealand
National has been rumbled on the TPPA.
First it tried to hide this excuse for a trade treaty under secrecy of negotiations.
But leaks revealed it is little about trade and more about pandering to the needs of big private corporations. As a small country we are vulnerable to their wants under the TPPA.
The culprits in this deal are Mr Key and Mr Groser. They have sold us short.
This week its hollowness as a trade treaty was again revealed by commentators, backing what NZ First has said.
They came straight to the point saying: “it’s striking how little it will deliver.”
Worse, Business journalist Rod Oram, one of the authors, says it will hinder NZ’s chances to increased prosperity.
We’ll be stuck growing things and shipping them overseas.
Instead of adding value.
Yet John Key insists on a groupie of trade ministers signing the TPPA at SkyCity.
The Resource Management Act
One major issue if politicians listened and used a bit of common sense, could be fixed virtually overnight.
It relates to the incomes of our people and the growth of our economy.
Our unemployment rate is still higher than Australia’s even with the collapse in commodity prices and China’s decreased demand for their coal, taking a massive toll on the Australian economy.
When John Key became Prime Minister he promised to close the gap between Australia and New Zealand by 2025.
If he was serious about growing our economy, he should have spent time talking to New Zealand businesses, the owner of the corner dairy, the local construction firm, the plumber and the farmer. The small and medium business people of this country. There are many reasons why our economy hasn’t grown, but if you were to have a conversation with these people, from the very big to the very small, from the Far North to the Deep South, and ask them what are the reasons that our economy isn’t growing, you would hear, amongst others, three letters time and time again. RMA.
New Zealand First has for a long time supported common sense changes to the RMA. In our Manifesto we state:
“If New Zealand's economy is to reach its potential then it must have world leading planning and resource consent laws. After 19 years the RMA clearly requires thorough revision to improve processes and procedures, reduce compliance costs, clarify expectations and responsibilities, and to facilitate progress and protection. Many of the problems that have arisen in relation to the RMA have been about delays in the consent process, costs, consultation requirements and lack of uniformity in how local councils approach the Act. Therefore the remedy must be threefold: to more strictly define and clarify the processes required to effectively adhere to the Act; to remove many of the obstacles and present frustrations which have unnecessarily become part of these processes; and to ensure that all affected parties have unhindered access to the consent process.”
We have all heard the horror stories. The outrageous costs and absurd delays.
Bob Jones was in the media with perhaps one of the most memorable of these horror stories. When he went to reinstate a window in one of his tower buildings in Auckland that had been blocked off by one of his previous tenants, he was not only whacked with $4,500 for a resource consent but also required to get a cultural impact assessment following consultation with no fewer than 13 iwi because the window looked out on to a designated heritage site!
In late 2014, the OECD published a study on the cost burden of environmental legislation of its member countries. That study put New Zealand at the bottom, when it came to the administrative burden of the RMA.
The RMA creates significant amounts of uncertainty, and cost which reduces investment. The net effect of this, among other issues is hampered growth and results in our people having lower wages and incomes and imprisons a growing number of New Zealanders in poverty.
When it comes to housing, the RMA is one of three key factors contributing to the Auckland housing crisis, the others being massive immigration, and the shift of jobs from the provinces and smaller centres to Auckland.
For housing to be affordable, it is widely agreed that it should be no more than three times the median household income in that particular area. This, coincidentally was what it was, when the RMA was passed in 1991.
When the productivity commission examined house prices in this country in order to determine why they were so unaffordable, the commission identified four factors, of which, three were directly related to the RMA.
There was a time in this country where we built houses. Quality homes, built to last. All without the RMA. It is unforgivable that in 2015 we as a country built fewer homes than we did in 1973.
This affects both young and old.
For the young, they now struggle to get together a deposit to buy their first home. Often, in their desperation to buy a home, they will take their lending right to the brink. This is of course a recipe for disaster when interest rates eventually rise.
For the elderly it is a concern too. Our whole system of retirement and superannuation rests on the notion that by the time someone retires, they should be living in their own home, debt free. To live on super in a debt free home is hard enough, let alone if you are still paying off the mortgage or worse yet, renting.
We all know that reform of the RMA has been the holy grail for the National Party. Or so they led us to believe. Nick Smith has been running around like a slightly mad version of Indiana Jones ever since National took power trying to get their holy grail.
Speaking to the Nelson Rotary Club a year ago on this very matter he said:
“The Act has some fundamental design flaws that require substantial overhaul. The purposes and principles are outdated and ill matched with the reality of the issues it manages like housing development. The plan making process is too cumbersome and slow. The Act needs re engineering away from litigation towards collaboration. Property owners need stronger protection from unnecessary bureaucratic meddling. We need stronger national consistency and direction.”
Generally speaking, what he said was right.
But when one looks at the RMA bill before the house and Mr Smith’s statements, the two don’t align.
The National Party have sold out. Virtually none of the reforms they were speaking about are in the current bill.
Even our friends in the media can see the headline “Government backs off fundamental changes to Resource Management Law”.
And if they aren’t reforming the law what then is in the bill?
Well that is where things get particularly disturbing.
As it currently stands, the RMA provides for iwi to become consenting authorities. This can take the form of either a full consenting authority or a joint consenting authority along, with local councils.
These provisions have been rarely used, with the Joint Management Agreement between Ngati Porou and the Gisborne District Council being perhaps the most well-known.
Under this agreement, Ngati Porou will move from being a joint consenting authority to a full consenting authority, within five years, over the entire Gisborne region.
Under the new bill, every council in New Zealand will be required by law, to invite the local iwi to “discuss, agree and record ways in which tangata whenua” through iwi authorities, can participate in the formulation of policy plans, including water management plans.
All of this has to happen within just 30 days of a council being elected.
This is just the starting point. The spokesperson for the Iwi Leaders Group, Rahui Papa said of the bill, that it was “A positive first step in advancing our objectives of better environmental outcomes and improving Maori participation in resource management processes.” Note the words “first step”!
Iwi really want much, much more. If you don’t believe that go online and Google it yourself.
The Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group late last year stated their goals and objectives. They are:
Ownership of all Crown owned river & lake beds and the water column.
Title in freshwater consistent with Waitangi Tribunal rulings
$1b fund in to an Iwi approved entity to address capacity and capability including mechanisms to assist decision making, water quality and economic mechanisms
And, importantly they say Sections 6 & 7 of the RMA will not change. The very sections National had said they wanted to change the most.
All of these statements appear in print. They are not New Zealand First accusations.
Dr Smith himself said "The Maori Party felt very strongly about the provisions that National had proposed in section six and seven. "There were eight changes that were in the proposals that were put up in 2013 that were not in the bill as a consequence of their advocacy."
It is obvious that National have been brownmailed into making policy concessions to the Maori Party.
They were bent over a barrel and not surprisingly, didn’t have the back bone to stand up to them. Nor did they have the common sense to look around to the one party that could help - New Zealand First.
The proposed changes to the RMA are a signal flare to the entire country that the two parties are taking us down the track of separatism. We are no longer one people. We are moving towards two separate groups with separate rights.
The slippery slope in regards to the RMA began when the RMA was first passed in 1991. At that time there were requirements for local councils to consult with the community including with Maori, as if Maori were seen as being a separate community rather than part of the community.
Unlike all other parties New Zealand First has taken a strong stance on this sort of nonsense for over two decades.
New Zealand First will:
1. Repeal clause 8 of section 2 and remove reference to the 'principles of Treaty of Waitangi' from this legislation
2. Amend definitions, particularly the terms used in clause 6(e), relating to 'spirituality' which, as a matter of personal conscience, has no place in resource consents. Whilst sacred sites and other tangible aspects of Maori culture ought to be taken into account in the resource consent process there must be a thorough revision of consultation requirements.
Our private members bill in the ballot in 2005 would have removed entirely from our statute books all references to the so-called Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
As we go about the different communities in this country, from North to South, East to West not a single New Zealander, non-Maori or Maori has come to us and said “Mr Peters, we need to give rights over water to Maori” or “Mr Peters, we are too unified as a country, we need more separatism”.
So why these changes? Well it gets back to what was said earlier. They are not listening to you.
It reminds one of an old army saying, “it’s mind over matter”. “I don’t mind because you don’t matter.” The two big parties don’t mind, because they think you don’t matter.
During the Northland by-election, National were trying to scare people off voting for NZ First by saying that we would prevent any reform to the RMA.
The truth is following the Northland bi election the Government did not even bother to come and speak to New Zealand First about this legislation. Not once. Not even so much as an email or a phone call. Not a word, not a whisper, not a mutter nor a murmur.
Therefore we announce here tonight, that New Zealand First will, in the committee stage of the RMA Bill, move amendments to cut red tape and bring common sense to the RMA. We will do so on one condition, that National will drop ALL provisions in the bill that provide separate rights based on race.
We as a principled party could not in good conscience support this legislation in its current separatist form.
Our strongly held belief is the Treaty should be a source of national pride and unity and not used to expand the separate rights of Maori or anyone else. Too often the Treaty now divides, polarises and isolates us.
The Treaty is not part of the New Zealand Constitution. It is not capable of supporting the extraction of so-called ‘principles’ for any legislative or government purpose. Ill-defined and abstract ‘principles’ are a recipe for legal and constitutional misunderstanding, dispute and undemocratic reconstruction.
It is now obvious to all, that which has long been obvious to New Zealand First and our supporters and that is, that there is only one party that stands for one law for all.
What can Kiwis can count on from NZ First in 2016?
NZ First will continue to expose the National Government’s real agenda, and the complicity of other parties, in the damage these policies are doing to New Zealand.
Our common sense policies in areas such as economic policy, immigration, foreign ownership and one law for all stand in total contrast to the feckless and irresponsible policies of other political parties.
They lack both conviction and courage. NZ First does not.
Putting New Zealand Interests first
National do not “own” NZ – it’s not their private property to dispose of yet they have been flogging off the country and selling our citizenship like there is no tomorrow.
They have abandoned any pretence of serving the common good
Given National’s close links with its corporate cronies – particularly overseas interests - that should come as no surprise
The public will have a clear contrast in 2016 –between the government’s self-serving propaganda and practical and pragmatic NZ First policies.
Supporting the Regions
We say New Zealand’s prosperity depends on regional prosperity.
Anyone who believes that soaring property prices in Auckland is a basis for long-term economic security is kidding themselves.
NZ First is committed to the regions. We will be fighting for real RMA reform, investment in rural roads and other regional infrastructure such as reliable rural mobile services as well as monetary policies to assist regional New Zealand.
Finally, our political opponents accuse us of being out of touch - even of being old fashioned.
Well it is true that we do see our job as serving New Zealanders – a principle that other leading political parties have abandoned.
Let me assure you NZ First is not about to change. In 2016, NZ First will continue to stand unashamedly for putting New Zealand and the interests of New Zealanders First.
For we believe it is a privilege to live in New Zealand – and that we all have a responsibility to work for the betterment of our country.